A Refugee Camp Conundrum: Geopolitics, Liberal Democracy, and Protracted Refugee Situations


  • Jennifer Hyndman York University




Dadaab, Kenya, Somali refugees, refugee camps, geopolitics, liberal democracy, borders, education


Liberal democratic norms are embodied in refugee camps and the states that host them in a multitude of ways: through refugee law and the ‘good offices’ of the United Nations; in relation to international aid and the prerequisites recipient governments must meet to receive it; and in refugee education to name but a few. In the Dadaab camps of Northeast Kenya, democracy and law meet intense geopolitical pressures. The camps are situated in what was once contested territory during the period of colonial rule. In the early 1990s and again in 2011, as Somalia faced armed conflict and related famine, thousands of refugees fled to the Dadaab camps. The presence of Somali refugees in Kenya is not politically neutral or merely humanitarian. The contradictions between liberal democratic norms and the prevailing geopolitical sentiments that favour keeping refugees in camps them are explored in the context of Dadaab.


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Author Biography

Jennifer Hyndman, York University

Jennifer Hyndman is Professor in Social Science and Geography at York University in Toronto, Canada, and Associate Director of Research at the Centre for Refugee Studies there. Her research focuses on the geopolitics and securitization of forced migration from conflict zones and refugee camps to resettlement in North America. She is the author of Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami (2011), Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism (University of Minnesota Press,2000), co-editor of Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (University of California Press, 2004), among other publications.



How to Cite

Hyndman, J. (2013). A Refugee Camp Conundrum: Geopolitics, Liberal Democracy, and Protracted Refugee Situations. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 28(2), 7–15. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.36472

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